A friend of mine who travels extensively recently returned from a trip to France with his wife. His review of Paris is that everything is smoky, run-down, and falling apart. The citizens are rude and unhelpful, and the Eiffel tower looks just like the pictures. He was underwhelmed.

People who have both the time and the money to travel - call them the top 1% - are running out of great places to visit. Most visitors to Paris probably love it, but by definition, once you've visited your personal top ten destinations, everything else is either less interesting or seems like a repeat (Look honey, it's another beach!). I realize it's a high class problem, boo-hoo. But that's not the point that I'm staggering toward.

My point is that no matter how bad the economy gets for the bottom 80% of the world, there will likely be a surging population of rich people and retired people with resources who need more interesting places to visit. Things will only get worse when robots start doing all the hard jobs, say in twenty years, which I hope is your lifetime. The poor will get poorer while the rich will own stock in the robot factories and get richer.

My proposed solution is to start now and turn the United States into the world's most awesome vacation destination, not just for the rich, but for anyone who has the means to travel. Sure, the United States has some good vacation areas already. But it's all sort of random and spaced out. Las Vegas is far from Miami which is far from Washington D.C.

I propose building a vacation-oriented high speed train loop around the country that connects all of the existing tourist destinations and creates lots of new ones along the line. The sleeper cars would be large and handle huge amounts of luggage so a traveler can easily pack for skiing in Aspen plus swimming in San Diego on the same extended trip. Think of it as an ocean cruise experience but on land. The train itself would be packed with fun for the ride and the stops would be frequent and interesting. Visitors could book trips for any portion of the loop they wanted. And let's assume the trains have both deluxe cars for the rich and more ordinary accommodations for everyone else.

The great thing about vacation industries is that they employ lots of people, starting with the construction phase. The United States has an advantage over other countries if it can keep the air clean and the destinations safe and convenient. I'll emphasize convenience in this concept. It would be nice if a rich Swede, for example, could buy one ticket that included airfare, train travel, shipping excess luggage, and meals. Planning a trip to Europe requires a lot of research and work. Planning a trip to the United States should be reduced to which segment of "loop" you want to see and how much you want to spend on luxury.

Costa Rica is following a version of this plan, but without the train. Their national strategy is to become a vacation destination. If you want to be a bartender or a guide in that country, it requires serious college-like training, including languages, safety courses and more. And they're so serious about protecting the environment that they say no to oil drilling. Their strategy seems to be working. I think the United States could take it up a notch. All of those future rich Chinese entrepreneurs will need someplace to visit that isn't polluted. I also think that for the rich, the gating factor is planning, not money. If a vacation plan can be made easy, people will flock to it the way they flock to ocean cruises.

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+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 15, 2012
If planing your vacation is hard for rich people, why don't they go with some exclusive travel agency? Isn't TA's job to plan and execute your vacation while keeping your efforts on a minimum?

-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 7, 2012
please, visit our country (or, as we'd like to say "auar cauntri")...

there is wonderful food, nice people, and if you want to get rid of someone that you do not like,we let him / her "sleep with da fishes"

Greetings from Italy!
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 27, 2012
You'll want to read England, England if you haven't already - it's the logical conclusion of your 'vacation country' concept: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/England,_England
Jul 25, 2012
Your idea of a nice vacation spot is different from mine - you might want to go to Las Vegas or Miami, but I'd much prefer Yellowstone park of the Grand Canyon. Not all tourist spots can be manufactured.
Jul 24, 2012
A guy I knew had a similar experience going through Canadian customs EMU except in his case they gave him a hard time-and cost him hundreds of dollars-because they considered furry art (cartoon like pics of humanoid animals for those of you who don't know) to be child pr0n. So its not just the USA that can have problems with how they treat visitors.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 24, 2012
"My proposed solution is to start now and turn the United States into the world's most awesome vacation destination, not just for the rich, but for anyone who has the means to travel."

Step ONE: Change your treatment of tourists at the border. Asking for fingerprints, meal preferences (veggies are terrorists?), membership in a union (whatever for do you need this?) means you view me as a potential criminal, terrorist or whatnot. Additionally, asking me to sign away any rights of appeal on the entry form is plain bullying and an invitation to arbitrary justice. Thirdly, if ever you get hold of my data there's no way for me to enquire about it or make you check, fix or delete the data.

I've been to the US twice before 9/11 and I'll probably go there again if and when you have stopped being a police state. But until then there's /nothing/ you can do to make that country attractive enough for me to jump though these hoops at the border.

I've grown up in east germany and "Erkennungsdienstliche Behandlung" is something I just don't accept anymore. (That is, not without actually being arrested for something that justifies it.)
Jul 24, 2012
I lived in Venice Beach, California for spell. It was puzzling out why it was so popular with German tourists. I'm not bashing California (though I could), just Venice Beach. To any prospective tourists reading this, listen closely: IT IS NOTHING LIKE THE MOVIES!!!
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 24, 2012
It would be cheaper to ferry individuals around in stretch limousines.

I love the tourist idea, and the engineer in me loves high-speed trains - plus who doesn't enjoy the idea of traveling on them. But they're far too expensive for the sparsely populated US. The Orlando-Tampa line was proposed at $2.4 billion to go 84 miles - ten years ago. But using the 8x realistic multiplier* that amounts to $240 million/mile! (Hence it was cancelled). Try building that loop around the US. Private jets might actually be cheaper.

*Since I live in Massachusetts, I'll use the Big Dig. Proposed cost: $2.8 billion. Estimated final cost including interest: $22 billion. That's eightfold - interestingly, the same amount as Phantom's example, the Oakland-Bay Bridge.
Jul 24, 2012
Your last comment makes sense, PhantomII, except for two nagging details. The first is context. Its clear from the rest of boingballs comment that he means fascist as in restricts personal freedom and quite possibly as an insult too, not in an economic sense. As an American I don't feel like the restrictions on my freedom cross the line into 'fascism', though I might be willing to accept Ghostriders comment that America is less free in general and less free for foreigners in particular than parts of Europe.

The second is extent. You mention Solyndra as if that one event represents a drift towards economic fascism. Sorry, but you'll have to do better than that.
Jul 24, 2012
To me the interesting bits of a place are just not visible if you are rich anyway. You just won't see them, as you will be coccooned in the lap of luxury etc. You won't be going to the only Texan barbecue that still uses an open pit (I lusted for this after watching Man Vs Food recently) as you will be eating interchangeable Michelin nonsense. Live in a place properly for a minimum of six months to actually see what it is about. Sure, there are going to be really bad bits from actually meeting real people, but otherwise how do you get any dynamic?

Perhaps that is the experience that needs to be sold to jaded palates? On the other hand I'd probably prefer to leave the 1% in their own self-imposed private hades. I don't envy them that asepct, quite the opposite.

"Things will only get worse when robots start doing all the hard jobs, say in twenty years, which I hope is your lifetime. The poor will get poorer while the rich will own stock in the robot factories and get richer."
Marshall Brain, who created HowStuffWorks.com, (and is quite right wing but perhaps geekily so) wrote about a couple of directions things could go in this fascinating story (I have recommended it to the house before, sorry):
Jul 24, 2012
Or you could come to England during the Olympics where everything in London has gone up in price threefold and we have the Olde Englishe cottage craft of 'fleece the tourist'. Or, to get away from the madness, got to Ireland. I know goosemonster says it's boring but it does have some stunning scenery and good pubs.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 24, 2012
Did he expect Paris to be recently built and freshly painted like Disneyland?

Jul 24, 2012
I live in Ireland (the UK bit in the North) and have long thought that the whole country should be turned into one giant theme park - Leprechaun Land.

Contrary to popular belief Ireland is an incredibly boring place to live. Yes, we have great scenery and enjoy a drink. But the scenery soon gets old plus alcoholism isn't as glamorous as it sounds.

There is simply nothing worth doing.

There isn't one single theme park in the whole country, so why not turn the whole country into one single theme park?
Jul 24, 2012
Actually, I suspect America would draw more super-rich tourists if it was a totalitarian state. Whenever a city or country hosts a tourist draw -- a convention, a Super Bowl or the Olympics -- there are stories about how the poor, troublesome and unphotogenic are suppressed or driven out of sight. We shake our heads, but you just know the skybox types walk the Disney-clean-and-safe streets and ask each other why home can't be more like this. You know, "The only thing those people respect is strength" and all that.

Around the world, luxurious retreats blossom in the midst of tyranny and oppression. The rich want places where they're safe and catered too, and it doesn't hurt if they're reminded how far they are above the laws applied to the locals. If we, say, walled off the Vegas Strip and exiled all but the high rollers to nickel slot bus stops on the fringes, we could have the next Dubai.
Jul 24, 2012
For those of you who may take offense at boingball's characterization of the US as a facistic state: I want to make sure that everyone understands what he/she is saying.

There are a number of economic theories out there. boingball is not calling the US a bunch of Nazis. He's reflecting on the definition of different economic systems.

Some people have called President Obama a socialist. This is not correct, in my opinon. The difference between socialism and fascism comes down to the difference between who owns the businesses and who controls them.

With socialism, the state owns the businesses and then plans what they produce and what they charge for what is produced. This was the Soviet model, and it did not provide good economic results for those who were a part of them.

With facism, the state does not own the businesses. But the state does control what they produce, and what the cost of what they produce will be presented to the consumer. It's a matter of central planning versus central ownership.

If you look at what the Obama adminstration has done: they have moved toward a fascistic model. Look at Solyndra. Half a billion dollars into a company thatshortly after the money was given to them went bankrupt; and, with a change to the bankruptcy rules without any legislative action, they gave the investors their money back ahead of the taxpayers. What else could you call it?

So don't feel that boingball is being insulting; he's simply being accurate. Fascism is a recognized economic system. We (the US) is moving toward this model under the Obama admistration.

We all should listen to our foreign cousins. Some of them are just anti-US. But some others are really pointing out some problems with our economic and political system, and the direction in which we are moving. We all should pay heed, because look what has happened to old Europe.
Jul 24, 2012
The US used to be an interesting place to visit for Europeans.

Nowadays, some of my friends don't even want to come here for business trips, because they dont feel like giving up their liberties and subjecting themselves to pat downs, naked scans and similar.

We had this kind'a stuff on the east German border, and don't need that again.

So - If the US ever wants to attract any kind of foreigners to come here "for pleasure", they need to start treating them more like guests, and less like foreign enemy combatants.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 23, 2012
Or they could just come to Australia where everything you could want is in one country. Beaches, Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, Daintree Rain forest, Kakadu, Deserts, yachting, swimming, snow skiing..........
Jul 23, 2012
If I were a wealthy Chinese tourist visiting the U.S., I'd want to do all the things my government wouldn't let me do back home.

Cowboy culture and the wide open spaces would interest me since I come from a congested city. A Texas dude ranch with Chinese-speaking cowboys would be just the thing. I could get up early in the morning to take my horse-riding lessons, and later mosey on out to the pheasant range and do some tobacco spitting in between.

Things like driving a pickup truck, hunting or flying a small plane are hard to do in China. In Texas, I could do all of them in an afternoon.

Advance planning for a trip like this is important. Before we left the ranch, my pregnant wife would have her triplets. Kids born in the US are instantly citizens, so they won't count against China's one-child policy. Sweet.

Jul 23, 2012
I was about to say there is no bloody way a cash strapped state like CA could be throwing 68 billion into high speed rail. Then I saw it on wikipedia.

And then their website:

Unfortunately, Phantom is correct in that the estimated cost is probably going to be a fraction the real cost.
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 23, 2012
Good Luck with that. Currently the US and the UK are becoming more unattractive by the minute in their quest for most fascist state of the world. The US itself is an interesting country to visit and there are areas in the US I have not seen yet (mostly around the south except Florida). But currently I will not visit the US or UK since those countries are becoming xenophobic countries with technology to match to make life uncomfortable plus as a foreigner you have no rights whatsoever (for the UK as a european citizen I am not entirely a foreigner at least, but the US is for me basically a state where I have no rights and have to fear torture (I have visited xenophobic countries before, e.g. Gaboon (but despite its oil an undeveloped country and corrupt so in principle you can survive as a traveller there), North Korea (another fascist state, but again undeveloped and actually very safe for visitors, it is more unsafe for locals, not to mention that it is like a visit to a foreign planet, i.e. one of the most unique experiences you can have on earth), Iran (though there the general population is extremely friendly (most friendliest people I have met anywhere) and again the police is more interested in locals than in foreigners once you have your visa)). I have also been to Pakistan, so a couple of countries in my cv make it unsafe for me to visit the US (I have visited Iran and Pakistan overland, so there is no trail in flight systems though making it more difficult for the US to profile me (on the other hand probably making me even more suspicious?).

Note: It used to be easy for me to fly to the US as a european. Just hop on a plane. Nowadays: Not so easy anymore. I have to fill out some online forms and I believe even pay money.
Countries interested in tourists are usually going the other way.

There are more than Top 10 destinations. Some suggestions in no particular order:
Australia (Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock/Uluru, ...), New Zealand (Fjordland), Antarctica, South Africa or Kenya (african wildlife), Argentina (Andes, Patagonia, Iguacu), Peru (Cuzco, Machu Pichu, Nazca), Japan, China, India, Bhutan, Cambodia (Angkor Wat), Myanmar (Pagan), Thailand, Indonesia, Yemen, Iran (!), Israel, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Ethopia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan (Pamir Hwy), Pakistan (Karakorum Hwy), Canada, Mexico and then Europe of course (Russia, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, France, Spain). I have left of England and the US because of the reasons above, otherwise they would be included.

This should keep you busy a couple of years.
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